Jump to content

Recommended Posts

I started this as a reply to Micheal Smith's lovely thread starter on L'eclisse and then realized that for all my bitching the last week about nominees that had no discussion threads, I had nominated L'Avvenutra and...it had no discussion thread...so here we go.

Thanks for posting on Antonioni, Michael. (I felt kind of bad that you did such a nice post on Underwater and it got no nibbles. I guess in the middle of Top 100 voting isn't necessarily the best time to grab people's attention.)

Even though I nominated L'Avventura, it's been a couple of years since I revisited the "trilogy" (or tetrology). I felt like L'Avventura communicated some of the modern alienation and emotional isolation without being entirely bleak. In some ways it feels like the end of the middle of the century rather than the beginning of the end of the century. I guess what I mean by that is that a lot of 20th century lit (especially first half but even into 60s and 70s) feels the need to disavow solutions, values, traditions of the past, but there is still a belief that new answers can be found or that expressing the scariness of breaking with tradition can in some ways still be meaningful. It feels like there is a great sadness here, but I find that sadness more humane and interesting than the bravado of stoicism or the dead-ends of determinism. I don't know if I can express that very well, but the middle of L'Avventura felt to me the first time I watched it like the middle of Psycho..oh, here's a narrative that keeps going after the place where it is supposed to end. And that interests me. What come next for the people who are still alive after the end of the world? That is a question working on both the micro (reaction to trauma) and macro (reaction to displacement, spiritual and social). For that reason, even though as Michael says, these films are formally in opposition to neorealism, I do feel a thematic kinship to the post-war settings of the more A&F canonical films...

I think the Top 100 could use an Antonioni film, and while none are easy, L'Avventura is maybe a little more accessible in that its themes emerge as much from the narrative (such as it is) rather than being about form. Michael, would you say that's a fair statement?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Ken, thanks for creating a thread on L'Avventura. It's funny: when I started the thread on L'Eclisse, I actually began writing exclusively about L'Avventura, and then realized that Christian had asked for my thoughts on L'Eclisse. :) Not that the films are interchangeable, but somehow my brain got confused. :) 

I'd say you make a fair statement about L'Avventura. It's a bit more accessible than L'Eclisse (in part because, as you point out, there's the mystery of what happened to Anna -- there's even a search for her, although eventually the film forgets about her altogether). The final shot has a genuine moment of empathy, whereas L'Eclisse doesn't. Claudia places her hand on Sandro's head as he cries, either from empathy or to console him; and it's Claudia who makes an emotional arc in the film, to the point where she at least seems to understand Sandro and, in general, how and why everyone feels the way they do (the ennui, the distancing, etc.) I personally think L'Eclisse is a "superior" film in that's in even more formally rigorous and its themes more fully realized, but L'Avventura, for one, marked the beginning of Antonioni's "alienation trilogy," and, two, it marked a significant turning point for him and for post-war European cinema. His late 50s films contain some of the methods he used in L'Avventura, but the latter amounted to a whole new thing. So, perhaps if we're thinking of what's more canonical, there'd likely be a slight push for L'Avventura over L'Eclisse

"It feels like there is a great sadness here, but I find that sadness more humane and interesting than the bravado of stoicism or the dead-ends of determinism" -- yeah, I definitely don't find stoicism or determinism in this series of films, although, as I mentioned in my L'Eclisse post, contra Rosenbaum, that film is the bleakest in the series (but, even then, it's still a humane picture).

Re: Underwater. I suspect no one's seen it. I was going to pass on it (despite my love for genre films) until someone on Twitter said something about Stewart's performance.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

So, I watched this for the first time a week ago, and while I loved the cinematography and framing, I honestly struggled to see what made this film one of the greatest or most influential films in cinema's history. It's often described as a turning point r.e. post-war film (Michael even says such!), but what specifically shifted after this? Is it the seeming lack of concern for Anna? Because I was surprised by how the search for her didn't just disappear in the second half of the film—Claudia is wondering about Anna throughout the latter half, and there are numerous overt moments in the dialogue between Claudia and Sandro where Anna could be (even if these clues are implausible—why would Anna be hiding in an abandoned town in the hills?). I suppose I was really disappointed by Sandro, whose behavior seems less "shocking" and more selfish/lecherous, almost typical. So that final shot strikes me as sad, but perhaps not in a typical way, i.e. Claudia seems to be returning to and consoling the man who just lustfully went after another woman, when she'd really be better off without him (she's Monica Vitti—she can do better than this guy!). 

I'll give the other films in Antonioni's trilogy a look, and will need to revisit this film to understand it better, but I'll say for now that it impressed it, but didn't affect me.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Joel, take a look at Assayas' 30 minute reflection on the film, which specifically addresses your question about how radical this was for Antonioni. It is featured in the Criterion Channel (but also available in YouTube...). The way Assayas captures what is happening here helped me grasp several of the finer points, and shifted the way I have watched subsequent cinema. 


"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

Filmwell | Twitter

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Michael, is there a YouTube link which includes subtitles? Criterion Channel isn't available in the UK, and the only video I've found is in French (my reading French is decent; my spoken French, not as much).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This link has cc subtitles that look good. Here is a good summary, though.


"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

Filmwell | Twitter

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
3 hours ago, M. Leary said:

This link has cc subtitles that look good. Here is a good summary, though.

Thank you for that. I plucked out my DVD, thinking it must have been a supplement, but it's not. Much appreciated.


"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Joel, I'm with you: Vitti could have done so much better than Sandro! :) I don't know if Antonioni intended this, but, to me, Sandro is the kind of person who relates to others only in a functional manner. So, once Anna is gone, he moves on to Claudia and, in due time, both he and the film itself forget about her. I see this as part of Antonioni's idea of the "sickness of eros".

The film was new and significant in the way in which Antonioni conceived of plot -- a new form of visual storytelling, replacing more traditional methods. Film critic Robert Koehler wrote an interesting analysis of L'Avventura in 2019 for the British Film Institute; here's part of what he wrote:

"But doubt is not an end point in this or his other films; instead it represents the beginning of new possibilities. Thus the open film’s mapping of changes of consciousness – through the tools of mise-en-scène, temporality, elliptical editing, a matching of sound to image combined with a de-emphasis on actors’ faces presiding over scenes (close-ups are fewer by far in L’avventura than any of his previous films) – is a picture of a post-psychological topography of the human condition, a radical effort to find a cinema grammar to express inner thought with photographic means."

I was, and in some ways continue be, affected by the film, but I think your admission that the film didn't affect you is interesting. Ultimately, I can't enjoy, advocate for, or believe in a film that doesn't affect or move me, and sometimes films that move other people just don't do the same for me. I guess I'm saying that my ultimate litmus test for a film is its pathos. If I can't find that, I move on to other films.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

That video from Assayas is really helpful in highlighting what Antonioni seems to be doing, but I still struggle with the notion that Anna (a) represents the plot, almost metonymically or allegorically, and (b) that Anna's disappearance is essentially ignored for the remainder of the film, because it felt to me like that was the unsaid (or sometimes, said aloud!) question or presence which haunts the entire film. The observation from Assayas that there's the potential worry that Sandro could also disappear in the final act is really interesting, and something I didn't pick up on. I also wonder if Anna's disappearance would have been more striking or affecting to me if I wasn't aware of who Monica Vitti was, or if Lea Massari was more well-known or established, like if that shift in perspective was more pronounced based on our pre-understanding of who these actresses are, not just the characters they play. Going into the film knowing who Vitti is (and with an awareness that the plot revolves around abandoning the plot) likely informed my experience.

Assayas seems to suggest that L'Avventura changed the very nature of what cinema could and should be, that it singularly marks a kind of "before" and "after." But I can think of other films from 1960 that were doing similar medium-challenging experiments: Psycho, Breathless, even Peeping Tom, all of which are very aware of the boundary-pushing decisions in how plot, perspective, structure, and editing can/should work in film. So, perhaps L'Avventura is a significant part, but also only part, of something larger in the post-war cultural zeitgeist regarding modernity and meaning-making. I mean, 1961 saw the publication of Vahanian's "The Death of God," and the rest of the 1960s had similar existentially-laden movements.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


×
×
  • Create New...